This month, Stop Hunger Now’s Global Impact Ambassador Siba Mtongana visited the U.S. during her #HowWeRise tour to build awareness of global hunger. Siba is a celebrity chef from South Africa known worldwide for her Food Network show “Siba’s Table,” which broadcasts in more than 130 countries. In 2014, she made O, The Oprah Magazine’s prestigious “O Power List” of 21 African women rocking the world.
During Siba’s two-week #HowWeRise tour, she has made media appearances in New York, visited Stop Hunger Now corporate partners, and attended meal packaging events in Raleigh, Atlanta, Las Vegas, San Jose and San Francisco. Siba is passionate about youth, women and children–especially those who suffer from poverty and hunger.
Stop Hunger Now’s Manager of Communications, Karen Cook, had a chance to interview Siba about her role as Global Impact Ambassador. Get to know Siba and read how her upbringing in an impoverished township in Capetown, South Africa, motivated her to rally around the fight to end global hunger.
Q: What is your goal during this #HowWeRise tour across the U.S.?
A: This is my first visit to the U.S., the most influential country in the world. I’m hoping that if more people are aware of the issues of hunger, more people will be inspired to do something. If more people are involved, it means we’ll have further impact. This really speaks to my heart, and I am honored to be part of this global movement! I am looking forward to getting as many people involved in this initiative during this U.S. tour. We are called for something bigger than us that will outlive us. This is it!
Q: You had a chance to be involved with Stop Hunger Now South Africa during Mandela Day this past July. Tell us about your first impressions of participating in a meal packaging event.
A: The energy was amazing. In South Africa we are a giving nation. People from different backgrounds all came together for Mandela Day. It was massive. You could literally touch the energy. It was something I’ve never seen before and I loved it.
Q: What was it like to visit the schools what were receiving Stop Hunger Now meals?
A: It’s just so touching and beautiful to see the impact on the young lives it benefits. Rod Brooks, the CEO of Stop Hunger Now, says hunger is an inhibitor. I believe every person deserves a fair chance of life, and food is that basic need.
Q: How did your childhood influence your decision to be an advocate for ending hunger?
A: I was born and bred in a township, which is like a ghetto. When we had apartheid, there was very limited access to things. There was immense poverty in my township; life was hard. I went to a neighborhood school and received meals; I was one of the beneficiaries. People gave meals out of the goodness of their hearts. When Stop Hunger Now approached me to do this, it touched home. It’s like a full circle: You are able to do the same thing that was done for you, but on a global scale.
Q: While in New York, what did you discuss when you met with Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
A: We had a spectacular conversation about how we can work together to end hunger by empowering women worldwide.
Q; You must have a busy schedule filming your show, promoting your new book, and being the mother to three small children. What drives you?
A: I am driven by my passion for what I love doing. At the very core of who I am, I love making a difference. I love changing lives. I got that from my mom. She is one of six children, and her mother was very giving. So I inherited it from my mother.
Q: What advice do you give to others to inspire them?
A: Often people think giving back means a money element or something they do not have. But what we all have is our time. Often your time is enough to give back. Wherever you are in scale of life, you can give your time or your resources to help Stop Hunger Now.
Q: This interview wouldn’t be complete without some questions about cooking. Tell me about your background and your cooking style.
A: I am trained in food and consumer sciences. I draw on the food I grew up eating. I travel extensively, and whatever country I’m in, I always think, “How can I make it mine and give it a Siba spin?”
Q: How do you decide what recipes to feature on Siba’s Table?
A: The show has natural element—it’s unscripted.The segments are based on real life. My producers ask me what I’ve been doing, where I’m traveling. I cook intuitively; I search for the taste until I get it, until I’m satisfied. When I create the recipes, I’m analytical. This comes from my food editing background. I test to make sure it’s the taste I wanted. The testing process is important.